University closes interfaith prayer room to make more space for Muslim-only prayer room

Western University in London, Ontario has been roiled over a controversial move from the university administration: closing a multi-faith prayer room to make space for a Muslim-only prayer room.  The London Free Press reports:

London’s Muslim community is reaching to diffuse mounting tension at Western University over an issue of prayer space at the school.

The move is meant to blunt “negativity” between the university’s chaplains and administration after a multi-faith prayer space at Western gave way to an expanded Muslim prayer room, said Imam Abd Alfatah Twakkal, spiritual leader of the Muslim London Mosque.

The loss of the prayer room triggered the abrupt resignation of Rev. Michael Bechard, Western’s Roman Catholic chaplain, and four other chaplains from the UWO Chaplains’ Association in protest.

I could understand a Muslim university doing this, since their faith explicitly subordinates other faiths – for example, imposing the jizya tax on infidels only, and forcing them to endure various indignities specified in the Koran.  But Western (also known as the University of Western Ontario) is a government-supported university, theoretically supposed to treat all equally.  And in fact, it was originally founded in 1878 by Anglican Bishop Isaac Hellmuth, presumably now spinning rapidly in his grave.

The resignations of the chaplains has surprised the university authorities for some reason.

Susan Grindrod, the university administrator who oversees the chaplaincy, said the changes came about because University College is being renovated. A Muslim prayer room has operated there for 20 years and demand is growing, she said.

Grindrod said university administrators were surprised by the resignations.

“We thought we had the co-ordinator of the chaplains at the table, but maybe it wasn’t quite as co-ordinated as we had hoped,” she said.

“We had the best interest of students in mind.”

Clueless is the kindest descriptor I can come up with.

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